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New rules for All-Star Race make this anyone’s event to win

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How will Saturday night’s All-Star Race unfold at Charlotte Motor Speedway with a new rules package virtually untested in the real world?

“We will just have to wait and see,” Hendrick Motorsports driver Alex Bowman said, succinctly summarized the thoughts of many.

“The rules package NASCAR is planning to use for the All-Star Race is definitely going to be interesting and something different,” Bowman said in a release this week. “It’s cool that NASCAR is trying to constantly make the racing better.”

This week’s prerace releases have been filled with uncertainty. Martin Truex Jr. hopes to use that to his advantage because the rules won’t carry over to the Coca-Cola 600. He isn’t the only one experiencing a change in attitude this year.

Locked into the All-Star Race because of his 2008 victory in the event, Kasey Kahne has the opportunity to deliver Leavine Family Racing one of its biggest successes. Much like racing on the restrictor-plate superspeedways, conventional wisdom will not apply, and this likely will be a wild-card race.

“With us not having run this rules package, we go into this weekend not exactly sure how the cars are going to feel in general, how they’ll work around other cars, or what the speeds will be like,” Kahne said. “It’s tough to say how it will all work out, but we won’t be learning much from this weekend to carry over into the 600 like we may have in years past. Teams will try to go out and win the All-Star Race with this package, and then next weekend, we’ll go back to racing what we’ve been racing all season long.”

“This package is going to be different, there’s no question about it,” David Ragan said. “Charlotte Motor Speedway is a place where the field tends to get strung out really fast, but these rules will slow everybody down a little, and I think we might see more side-by-side racing. And maybe it can spark some new conversation in the industry on a direction we need to go.”

The teams aren’t exactly working in a vacuum. NASCAR used a version of this rules package at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the Xfinity race last year, and the general consensus was that it did, in fact, create more side-by-side racing.

“I think we have to try this new aero package and see where it goes,” Chris Buescher said. “I know the (Xfinity cars) were able to use it at Indy, and I think as far as statistics go, there was a lot of movement in the field and green-flag passing, and I know that’s what NASCAR is after to try and create something different for the All-Star Race.”

Because no one really knows what to expect, a new rules package levels the playing field and may just well give a less experienced driver a chance to shine.

“Hopefully, what I learned with that aero package last year at Indy (in Xfinity) will apply,” William Byron said. “I feel like maybe I’ll have a little bit of the upper hand just knowing what my car needs to do because I think a lot of guys may be up in the air on what to do with their cars (with the new package).”

What will actually happen in the race is anyone’s guess – much the same as on plate tracks.

Without points on the line, there is an incentive to take risks one might not otherwise. This race is already prone to high-risk moves. If the rules package slows the cars arbitrarily and the entirety of the race is run in a pack or multiple packs, the proximity of these enthusiastic drivers to one another could be a recipe for excitement – or disaster.

What other drivers said:

  • “This year’s race in particular will be interesting with the new rules package. I can’t really give any opinion one way or the other until we get on the racetrack around other cars to see what it will be like.” – Jamie McMurray
  • “I’m excited to get on track with the new package we’ll run and see how it feels and how it races.” – Kyle Larson
  • “You never know what is going to happen, especially with the new aero package that we will run. Anyone can win the race.” – Ty Dillon
  • “Obviously, speeds are going to be slower, a lot more downforce, a lot more drag. But it’s still a big question mark. Nobody knows how it’s really going to play out.” – Michael McDowell

Martin Truex Jr. to visit White House, President Trump on Monday

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The final stop of Martin Truex Jr.‘s championship tour will be Monday on the South Lawn of the White House.

Truex, the defending Cup Series champion, and other members of Furniture Row Racing will meet with President Donald Trump during a ceremony scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. ET, according to an advisory from NASCAR.

Truex’s visit is the first for a NASCAR champion during the Trump Administration. There was not a White House visit last year for Jimmie Johnson‘s seventh championship.

A Furniture Row Racing spokesman confirmed to NBC Sports that Truex’s crew chief, Cole Pearn, who has taken shots at the president on Twitter, also will attend the ceremony Monday.

Trump and NASCAR have intersected numerous times over the past three years, well before the 45th president of the United States took office.

On Feb. 18, President Trump tweeted an acknowledgment of the Daytona 500.

Last September, Trump tweeted his support of NASCAR drivers standing for the anthem.

NASCAR CEO and Chairman Brian France endorsed Trump in a Feb. 29, 2016 rally at Valdosta State University in Atlanta, Georgia, one day before the Super Tuesday primary.

Drivers Ryan Newman, David Ragan, Chase Elliott and NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott also attended the rally, with both Elliotts speaking briefly in support of Trump. Trump claimed in a tweet that he received the endorsement of NASCAR.

NASCAR Hall of Famer Mark Martin endorsed Trump at another rally in Concord, North Carolina, a week later.

France later told the AP he was “very surprised” that after his “routine endorsement,” which he considered personal and not on behalf of NASCAR, “my diversity efforts for my whole career would have been called into question.”

In April 2016, France told the AP during the APSE Commissioners Meetings that he “probably shouldn’t have been” surprised by the reaction to the endorsement.

A month before the presidential election, Austin Wayne Self drove a paint scheme dedicated to Trump’s campaign in a Truck Series race at Talladega Superspeedway . In the Nov. 6 Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway, Reed Sorenson drove a similar scheme two days before Trump was elected.

In July 2015, NASCAR announced it would no longer hold its Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series award ceremonies at the Trump National Doral near Miami, Florida.

The move was made hours after Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, threatened to boycott the event over “recent and ongoing blatantly bigoted and racist comments from Donald Trump in regards to immigrants of the United States.”

 

What drivers said after Kansas Cup race

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Kevin Harvick – Winner: “Well, I think this weekend shows really how good the race team is. Everything didn’t go exactly smooth, and everybody just kept a good demeanor about things and kept calm and kept working through things. The same thing tonight. Everybody just kept working through trying to make the car better, and we were able to wind up in Victory Lane. Those are the days that you just grind it out.”

Martin Truex Jr. – Finished 2nd: “I thought we were going to be all right there. Like three or four to go, my car just got real tight, and I chattered the right front off of turn four, and I was like, ‘Oh boy, that’s not good.’ We had been so tight all night and I didn’t know where to go once he was getting there. If I go to the top, he’s just going to catch me on the bottom. I might as well run where I feel I can run the fastest, and I did and it just wasn’t enough. Good strategy call by Cole (Pearn, crew chief) and overall, just a hell of an effort by everybody on our team. We had to fight hard. We were awful at the start of the race. We’re missing something right now, just can’t get the thing turned, so we felt tight all night long. Got better for sure the last three or four runs of the race but still have to find some turns. We’ll get to work on that.”

Joey Logano – Finished 3rd: “I really just had two bad restarts in a row, which is frustrating to me. As the leader, I feel like I probably took the wrong lane, which cost me the lead in the first place and then the last time I was trying to time him on the bottom, and he just read it really well and kind of stopped me, and then I spun the tires after that. The car behind me wasn’t the best of pushers. He wanted to win the race, too, and I don’t blame him. He’s not my teammate. He’s there to win, too. I just hate being that close. It’s a great run for AAA and Team Penske, but when you’re that close to winning it’s pretty frustrating as a driver and probably as a team we’re all probably a little frustrated right now.”

Kyle Larson -Finished 4th: “Yeah, we just had a really good car tonight. Our Clover Chevy was fast. I always run pretty good here at Kansas, so it was nice to lead some laps. I thought we were going to have a really good shot to win there, and Kevin (Harvick) was able to get to my outside. And then, I was tight in traffic there. Yeah, then (Ryan) Blaney was side-drafting really hard and I was as high as I could get and we made contact, whatever, and we had a bunch of damage, so I hate that we didn’t turn today into a win, but it’s satisfying to see how much speed our car had tonight. And, it’s definitely good to show that Chevy has a lot of speed, at least in the No. 42 team; so, we’ll just keep working hard and try to get as fast as the No. 4. I thought, myself, the No. 4 and the No. 12 were all pretty equal tonight. It was kind of just whoever got out in clean air and could get to the top quick enough would be the fastest throughout the run. So, it was a fun race but a little bit disappointing there in the last 20 laps.”

Denny Hamlin – Finished 5th: “I thought it was average. It felt balanced on the short run, and I lost the balance there toward the middle and end of the race. We optimized our finish. I certainly don’t think we had a fifth-place car, but we just did a good job with the track position there. Got a good finish out of it.”

Paul Menard – Finished 6th: “We had a good car all weekend. We made some good adjustments coming into tonight and kept working on it all night long. The track changed a lot as the sun went down. We kind of saved our best for last, I guess. We had a couple cars crash in front of us. We avoided it and the further up you can restart the better off you can stay up there and the more likely you are to stay up there, so clean air was everything tonight.”

Erik Jones – Finished 7th: “We had a really good car. Our Reser’s Camry was about a seventh-place car, and that’s where we ended up. We have to keep working. We’re getting close. There are some other teams that have some more speed right now and we’re trying to close the gap on them. We have to keep working on that and hopefully find our way to get there sooner rather than later.”

Kyle Busch – Finished 10th: “We were just a little off all weekend. But even though we were, we were able to run up near the front with our M&M’S Caramel Camry. We just ended up getting back in traffic there on the last couple of restarts and dropped too far down. We’ll go back and hopefully figure out where we are off, learn from it and move onto the next one.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Finished 11th: “Overall, we were pretty much an 18th-place car all day. Our Ford wasn’t affected by any of the adjustments we were making, but with pit strategy and late-race cautions we were able to salvage an 11th-place finish. Not a bad points day. We’ll go back to the shop and keep working on our cars.”

Chase Elliott – Finished 12th: “Yeah, just scratching and clawing to run mediocre. We have a lot of work to do.”

David Ragan – Finished 13th: “We made good adjustments Saturday night to start the race and I felt like our car was OK the first run, and then we made a good improvement that first pit stop, so that really helped us stay on the lead lap a little bit longer, and then we just caught a couple of lucky breaks at the end, but we were just good enough that we could take advantage of those lucky breaks. I feel like we’ve made some more progress with our 1.5-mile cars. It was a fun race. We still have some more improvement we can do, but it was fun to race there with some good cars.”

Clint Bowyer – Finished 15th: “It was a solid run. All weekend long it was just not our weekend. We had tech issues and didn’t get to qualify. We started in the back and got up through there pretty good, but then kind of stalled out. We got wrecked there. I was trying to get us up in the top five and got wrecked there. That’s just part of it I guess.”

AJ Allmendinger – Finished 16th: “It was a hard-fought night for sure. We didn’t have a good Friday, so made kind of wholesale changes on it. Fortunately, Chris (Buescher) was really good all weekend, so we kind used a little bit of his, and that helped. Just kind of all day, I could be loose or tight, just felt like I was at a certain speed, and that was about as good as I was going to go there. The track definitely changed a lot. I thought we fought hard. I did everything I could on the restart there to get all the spots and a little fortunate from a couple of cars falling out. We salvaged a decent night from a tough weekend and hopefully just learn from this and keep going the right direction and try to make it better.”

Austin Dillon – Finished 17th: “We had a challenging night at Kansas Speedway as we battled a lack of grip and handling issues, but I am proud of this Richard Childress Racing team because they never give up. We hit a snag in the race during a green flag pit stop. Our car was gurgling in the middle of three and four and I panicked. I came down pit road too abruptly and earned us a commitment line violation. We could have made it another lap and we ended up multiple laps down. We kept digging and we were able to earn back one of our laps when the caution came out with 30 laps remaining but didn’t have enough laps left in the race to get back on the lead lap.”

Michael McDowell – Finished 20th: “It’s good to get some points and get some momentum back of just finishing races. We just started out really loose and got behind a little bit and made good changes at the end, but by then we were two laps down, and it’s just hard to make up. Everybody fought hard, and it’s still good to get a top 20. I’m really happy for my teammate, David Ragan, top 15. That’s a great run for them, and they’ve been having a good streak. That’s not what we hoped for, but all in all an OK day.”

Ryan Newman – Finished 30th: “We were just an innocent bystander really. They crashed kind of underneath me, in front of me and just got all wadded up. I mean I had no place to go. It’s just unfortunate, kind of a ho-hum race I guess you could say for so long and then to get 14 laps from the end and tear up a bunch of cars like that just kind of sucks.”

William Byron – Finished 33rd: “Yeah, that one hurt really bad. But I’m fine. We took two tires there and couldn’t get it turned on the bottom and then got sucked around at the last minute. It just should have been lower than that. Just couldn’t rotate. Couldn’t cut. I think overall, we were trying to kind of push some things there and it just didn’t work out. But, we’re going to wherever is next and that was definitely the hardest hit I’ve been in. But, I’m thankful to be walking, so that’s good.”

Chris Buescher: – Finished 34th: “It was pushing and shoving (on a) late-race restart, and everybody gets impatient so just wadded up a bunch of cars. I thought we had cleared it, and we were in the grass and just had somebody come from the top and wipe us out. Not what we wanted with our Breyers 2 N 1 Camaro. We had good speed in the sun, and the sun went down, and we lost a little something. We were working hard to get it back and trying to be fighting for the lucky dog there, and we were for a long time. We just got swiped and something that who knows, I haven’t seen a replay. I don’t know. I’m sure just uncalled for.”

Matt Kenseth – Finished 36th: “I expected us to be a little more competitive than that, so it was a really tough weekend all around. We obviously have some work to do. The good news is it’s got to get better.”

Ryan Blaney – Finished 37th: “I don’t know. It was hard racing. I definitely take the blame on that one. I was just trying to side draft hard and the car was kind of light down the frontstretch there and it was just hard racing at the end. I got about spun out in one and two on the restart, getting sucked around. We were making some spots back up and just trying to get back up to the front and tried too hard. That stinks. We had a really fast race car and I hate it for REV. The two races they’ve been on our car this year and we’ve led a bunch of laps in both of them and ended up wrecked. I wish we could get over that hump, but I thought we made a good gain tonight and where our cars need to be. Hopefully, we can carry that forward into the next upcoming weeks, but it was definitely my fault just trying too hard. I made contact and it cut my right-front down. I hate I got the 42, but it was just hard racing.”

Ty Dillon – Finished 38th: “This weekend was a rough one for our Twisted Tea team. From the moment we hit the track for practice and throughout the entire race, we struggled with our Camaro ZL1. Then we got caught up in the wreck at the end. I tried to avoid it, but drove in the grass and knocked the radiator out of it. Tough ending for our Germain Racing team, but we will go back to the shop and continue to push to make our cars better.”

David Ragan proves consistent with another top-10 finish at a restrictor-plate track

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — While Joey Logano celebrated his victory at Talladega Superspeedway, David Ragan enjoyed another top-10 run at a restrictor-plate track.

Ragan finished a season-best sixth Sunday. It marked his fourth top-10 result in the last six restrictor-plate races, dating back to last year’s Daytona 500.

Ragan, Logano, Aric Almirola, Ryan Newman and Paul Menard are the only Cup drivers to score four top-10 finishes in the last six plate races. No driver has more such finishes in that span. Almirola placed seventh Sunday and Newman was ninth.

“Top 10s are great,’’ Ragan said after exiting his Front Row Motorsports Ford. “I felt we had a top 15 last weekend at Richmond and it was such a heartbreaker to have that flat tire. It gets some of those points back. Just to survive and be able to run back up front, it’s good for the guys back at the shop and for everyone.’’

Had Ragan not had that flat tire 10 laps from the scheduled finish at Richmond, he could have scored his third consecutive top-15 finish. He finished 12th at Bristol the week before Richmond (he finished 33rd after the incident).

Ragan admitted Sunday’s race at Talladega was challenging.

“I felt like today’s handling was the worst it has been in recent memory at Talladega, probably before the repave (in 2006),’’ said the 2013 Talladega spring race winner.  The combination of the rules package, the cars are fast, the track is losing grip, so every year it’s going to be a little worse. But when you’re around 200 mph and the cars are as low as they are, they don’t have the downforce on them. I felt like tires were important today.”

A four-tire stop late helped Ragan’s car charge toward the front.

“We had a fast car all weekend,’’ he said. “We qualified 12th and if it wasn’t for my speeding penalty early I think we could have run in the top 15 all day.’’

Most top-10 finishes in the last six restrictor-plate races (since 2017 Daytona 500)

4 – David Ragan

4 – Joey Logano

4 – Aric Almirola

4 – Paul Menard

4 – Ryan Newman

3 – Kurt Busch

3 – Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

3 – AJ Allmendinger

3 – Kasey Kahne

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Chase Elliott thought Ford drivers ‘would want to win a little more’

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As Sunday’s Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway neared its conclusion, Chase Elliot was baffled by the lack of aggression among those he was racing with behind winner Joey Logano.

Specifically, Elliott was at a loss trying to explain the actions of three other Ford drivers — Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — who finished with the Hendrick Motorsports driver’s No. 9 Chevrolet in the top five.

“I was really surprised with how patient they were being with one another,” Elliott said after taking third behind Busch and Logano. “Really thought they would want to win a little more than what they did, or at least showed to me.”

Elliott was one of three Chevy drivers in the top 10, but the only non-Ford driver in the top seven. He finished ahead of Kevin Harvick, defending race winner Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Aric Almirola and David Ragan.

“Those guys around me were working together so much,” Elliott said. “If it was me, I feel like I would have wanted to try or do something. Those guys weren’t having it. I was trying to move forward and make a lane and push, and they were not interested in advancing.”

Though Busch passed Harvick for second on Lap 187 of 188, but there were no other dramatic moves made to try to dethrone Logano.

Asked about Elliott’s comments that he was deliberately patient, Busch said, “Well, I mean, the guy that’s leading the race is pretty fast.  The guy that’s second is really fast.  The guy that’s third is fast.  When you time together three guys that are from the same manufacturer (Ford), that’s what puts you in position to win.

“But then once it’s five (laps) to go, nobody’s really caring who’s got what brand underneath the hood, the shape of their car.  It’s my job as a teammate to help Kevin a little bit further down into getting two to go, one to go.  Then there’s Stenhouse, who has won a lot of these plate races recently.  He came in there with a head of steam.  I wanted to roll with him.  Didn’t materialize. That’s how we got all strung out, trying to be the one guy by himself, where you need three to kind of hook up and go and try to pass the leader.

Elliott improved a spot to third after Harvick got shuffled to fourth on the pass by Busch, his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate.

“I tried to kind of break out of line and do a couple things there,” Elliott said. “Like I said, it was very obvious that nobody was going to help around me.  It’s hard to move forward.  Even if I just had one other person to help, I felt like it would have made a big difference.”

The result was Elliott’s second consecutive top-three finish after a second at Richmond. It’s also his best finish in 10 restrictor-plate starts and his second top five at Talladega.

The closest Hendrick Chevy for Elliott to work with belonged to Alex Bowman (eighth). Jimmie Johnson placed 12th after being part of a wreck with 23 laps to go that eliminated William Byron.

“It was a pretty wild afternoon,” Elliott said.  “Cars were hard to drive. Scared some people off from running three‑wide and four‑wide. That was interesting, as well. So could have been worse.”